Location | Paris: Meet Field School Blogger Jessica Hood

Meet Jessica!
Tell us a little bit about yourself—school, background, major, reasons for taking this trip, anything else interesting you want to share.

At Jessica's much beloved Opera house. From left to right: Andres, Yvonne,
Jessica, Rosaura, Rhea, Courtney, Tessa, Kyubo, Amanda
(Photo courtesy: Dorothy Barenscott)
My name is Jessica Hood and I am currently a third year theatre performance student at Simon Fraser University. The reason I am a theatre major and the reason why I am on this trip to Paris both stem from the same story. When I was twelve years old, my father took me and my family to the San Francisco Orpheum to watch The Phantom of the Opera. I was immediately engrossed. I went home that night and played the entire original recording over and over in my bedroom so that I could learn the songs. I knew from that point on I would be a performer and I would go to Paris. Because the story still fascinated me in high school (and even today), I chose to research The Phantom of the Opera by reading the novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux along with comparing historical events to the fictionalized versions in the book. After reading about the Opéra Garnier and its construction, I knew I had to see it in person. Now, I am making these dreams come true. I am a performer, I am in Paris, and I have seen, and touched the Opera House. 

What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about Paris so far?

Paris is a beautiful city and it is such a wonder to actually be here. I still have moments where I have to stop and remind myself that I am here. I have been most surprised by the efficiency and simplicity of the metro. Getting around this city has not been difficult and I am doing pretty well, in my opinion. Some of the stations can actually be quite pretty too when they're not filthy with rat infestation or urine. I am also surprised at the cost of food. I was expecting it to be very expensive, but luckily getting groceries has been more reasonably priced than back home in Vancouver. Sure, eating at restaurants can be pricey, but that's not an every meal kind of activity. Plus, when I have gone to restaurants to eat, I have managed to find decent prices and ways to share entrees so as not to be paying as much. I expected the city to be dirty, filled with cigarette smoke and other smells, and crowded in the tourist areas. These are all true, but the amount of each still surprised me nonetheless. I did not expect, however, for there to be so little green space or for the existing green spaces to be so manicured that people are not allowed to walk on the grass. Despite these oddities, I am very much enjoying my time here and the chance to discover this city. 
Jessica, Shannon and Yvonne mastering the Metro system in Paris
(Photo courtesy: Kyubo Yun)
Give us some insight into your assigned art work from the Muse d’ Orsay. After seeing the work in person, what struck you most about it and/or how did the art work’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it?

Honore Daumier, The Laundress (1863)
After waiting in line for about a half hour, we finally made it to the Musée d'Orsay. Dorothy started leading us to "something we had to see" and on the way I caught the first glimpse of my assigned painting - The Laundress by Honoré Daumier (1863). I jumped and squealed and pointed from excitement. After going through many of the exhibits, I decided to take a better look at the painting. It was located in the first room dedicated to Daumier works on the main floor. There were three caricatures, twenty caricature-like sculptures, and about ten of his paintings. The second was mine. I was so happy that I could see a lot more of the colours because the slide photos were so dark that I had no idea they were even there. Despite the presence of colour, I noticed it was not a very detailed painting. The faces of the woman and her child are blurry and the background is very geometric. It made me think that he was depicting an example of the masses, one pair of nonspecific people to represent all the others like them. I also wondered if the unevenness of the buildings in the background signified the demolition of old Paris into the new Haussmannized ones. It was nice to see the brushstrokes in person. His are even and vertical. I also enjoyed comparing his painted work to that of his sculptures and caricatures. I started watching other people's reactions to his work as they entered. Most seemed more excited by the sculptures, since they were funny. Others seemed completely uninterested or maybe they were just tired. I think it was probably because they were excited to see the more well-known and larger pieces on display. For me, and those who know his work, it was so interesting to see this work I had studied and that was at the very start of the Impressionist movement. 

View of Versailles gardens from inside Palace
Today’s activity was at the Palace of Versailles. What were your impressions?  What will you take away of the experience?  What, if any are the memorable moments for you?

We went to Versailles today. The palace is huge and its golden gates shine in the distance. I had always assumed that the entrance to Versailles was preceded by the gardens, so I was surprised to see gates and a cobblestone courtyard. I also did not expect it to be surrounded by a little city, but I suppose that erupted because of tourism. Right as we entered the courtyard, we had to stand in a massive line to get into the palace. Forty minutes later, we were inside. It was packed with crowds of people. With some sections closed off and the rest open through narrow doors and hallways, it was like we were being herded through the rooms. I was barely even looking at the decorations while darting through people and being pushed by others. I was so frustrated that I nearly ran through the rest just so I could get outside to some open space. Seeing one room was enough to know what the rest looked like. The Hall of Mirrors was interesting because there were so many panes, which was so expensive at the time they were purchased, and the gardens were visible from the windows. More interesting than that was seeing graffiti on the mirrors. I saw one dated at 1949. It was refreshing to see how these people had rebelled against the symbol of opulence that the Versailles palace represents by carving their names into those mirrors. I only saw a part of the gardens because the entrance was an extra seven euros that I did not want to pay. I'm sure I would have enjoyed them if it had been included in the ticket price or if the weather had been nicer. I'm fairly certain that this monument is my least favourite activity of the trip because it was, in my opinion, over-rated and extremely over-crowded.
One of the many chandeliers at the Palace viewed from a more abstract position